Fortnite’s Political Content Encourages Violence and Allows Players to Stage a Capitol Insurrection

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As part of an ongoing investigation into the presence of unmoderated extremism and election-related content on gaming platforms, including on mainstream platforms like Roblox, the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism (GPAHE) has uncovered a series of user-created content active on the popular video game Fortnite that promotes insurrection and pits world leaders against each other in armed combat.

Fortnite, a video game developed and released by Epic Games, reportedly has 236 million monthly active players and boasts around 650 million registered players as of 2024. According to Demandsage, around 60 percent of Fortnite players are between the ages of 18 and 24, with around 90 percent identifying as male. Over 20 percent of players reside in the United States with Russia, Brazil, Poland, and Mexico following suit. Fortnite generated $4.4 billion in revenue in 2022, making up 85 percent of Epic Games’ total revenue for the year. Fortnite is available on PC, Playstation, Xbox, and Nintendo Switch, having been pulled from both Apple’s iOS App Store and the Google Play Store in August 2020 after a dispute over royalty payments. Epic allows access to Fortnite on Android devices through its own application.

Epic Games has a history of platforming problematic content and allowing hate to spread on their games. Fortnite was criticized for hosting antisemitic content and failing to moderate Holocaust denial following the release of a report by the ADL in April 2023. According to the report, “multiple users had the name ‘Holohaux,’ while others included the number 88, a white supremacist reference to ‘Heil Hitler.’” Epic Games responded by unveiling an in-game Holocaust Museum, titled “Voices of the Forgotten,” created by Luc Bernard, a French-Jewish video game creator. Unfortunately, this didn’t prevent well-known antisemites from taking advantage of the game’s popularity with young people. Neo-Nazi online influencer Nick Fuentes hosted a fundraiser in December 2023 with a $500 grand prize on Fortnite for his white nationalist conference, the America First Political Action Conference (AFPAC). 

User-generated content appears on Fortnite as “islands,” a collection of game modes first released in 2018 separate from Fortnite’s trademark “Battle Royale”-style. Each Island represents a different game that users can choose  from the “Discover” tab when they open Fortnite, similar to how Roblox’s “experiences” function (read our reporting on Roblox’s user-generated content here). Epic has released their own islands, like the “Festival Jam Stage,” which hosts popular music artists performing at virtual concerts. Gamers can build their own islands using an in-built game designer, called Fortnite “Creative,” and the external “Unreal Editor for Fortnite” powered by Unreal, a game engine also owned by Epic. Creative mode is described by Epic Games as allowing the player to “design Fortnite games and experiences that can be published and shared with friends online… using your own rules on your own personal island.” Users can generate islands from elaborate templates, or from a “basic” island design available in the Creative Studio. The vast majority of islands are themed maps used for more classic game modes, like “Team Deathmatches,” which pits two teams against each other, “Free For Alls,” and Player vs. Player (PvP) game modes. Fortnite was used as a campaigning tool by Joe Biden in the 2020 US Presidential election with an island called “Build Back Better.” It is no longer available for players to access.

A selection of islands featured on Fortnite’s “Discover” page, including both user-generated content and those developed by Epic. (Source: Fortnite)

Political Gaming on Fortnite

One island flagged by GPAHE is called “Storm the Capitol,” developed by “KCG Studios.” The island’s information page features an image of three armed Fortnite characters approaching a building resembling the United States Capitol, and the “About This Island” section describes the island as only having “one goal, OCCUPY ENEMY BASE!” by “eliminat[ing] all the guards and infiltrate enemy base (sic).” Up to four players can attempt this virtual insurrection at once.

Storm The Capitol, featured on Fortnite’s “Discover” page, uses an image of three armed Fortnite characters marching on the U.S. Capitol (Source: Fortnite)

Upon entering the island, in-game terrain doesn’t resemble the Capitol grounds, however the objective remains the same. The player must enter a “stronghold” by making their way past eight armed guards by either killing them or stealthily avoiding them. Players are given three weapons: a suppressed sniper rifle, an automatic shotgun, and an assault rifle. They may also take guns from guards they’ve killed. Any time the guards are alerted to any of the players’ presence, a group of “reinforcements” arrive and engage the players in a gunfight. Reinforcements will continue fighting players until they or the player are killed.

The game appears to be built using Epic Games’ Unreal Editor for Fortnite, and uses the Verse Stronghold Template provided by the Epic Developer Community. KCG Studios made little to no edits to the template before rebranding it as an insurrection simulator.

At the beginning, the player enters into a forested area that catches fire before they begin entering the “stronghold” (Source: Fortnite)

As the player enters the “Stronghold,” guards will retreat, allowing the player to venture further into the base until they have “secured” it. (Source: Fortnite)

After successfully storming the Capitol, the player returns to the Fortnite menu with a congratulatory message. (Source: Fortnite)

Fortnite hosts other political content, such as “Box PvPs,” also known as “Boxfights,” where players are trapped in a box and fight until there’s only one of them remaining. For example, “Election Box PvP” assigns users to play as both current and historical world leaders including Angela Merkel, Donald Trump, Joe Biden, John F. Kennedy, Vladimir Putin, Barack Obama, Kim Jong Un, and others.

Election Box PvP features several heads of state and candidates (Source: Fortnite)

In “Election Box PVP,” players can start their game as different political leaders, each with their own unique abilities. For example, they can spawn (i.e., load into the game) as Russian President Vladimir Putin, which grants the player a second life after being killed. Spawning as former President Donald Trump allows the player to “spawn a barrier to trap players alone with you.” Players do not have avatars reflecting their real-world counterparts, but they can see which leader they’ve been assigned in the bottom-left corner of the screen, and see which other “leaders” are present by looking around within the “box.”

In Election Box PvP, each player is assigned a world leader. In this case, the player was assigned North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (Source: Fortnite)

Similarly, another developer called “GRXG” created an “Election Box PVP” based on the 2024 U.S. Presidential Election, pitting former President Donald Trump against incumbent Joe Biden. This island follows the “Team Deathmatch” format, assigning players to fight as either the Red (Trump) or Blue (Biden) team, corresponding to traditional Republican and Democratic colors.

2024 Election Box PvP, given a rating of “Teen” for violence and blood, encourages players to take either the Blue (Biden) or Red (Trump) side and kill the other players (Source: Fortnite)

Fortnite’s Policies on Political Content Appear Lacking

There are several layers of policy creating a barrier between the user producing content and publishing it on Fortnite, but they don’t seem to adequately address political content. Under section five of Fortnite’s End User License Agreement (EULA), titled “User Generated Content,” content moderation practices are mentioned, but only to the extent of using the game’s voice chat feature in order to “help identify harmful, toxic, or fraudulent behavior in our services.” The EULA redirects the reader to Fortnite’sSafety and Security Center” to learn more about their content moderation practices. However, there’s no mention of policy regulating user-generated content.

The Island Creator Rules published by Epic Games outlines islands’ need to comply with both the Content Guidelines, meant to regulate the content on an island, and the Community Rules, which regulates in-game player conduct. Both sets of regulations, using similar language, target “intolerance and discrimination,” “scams and deceptive practices,” and “illegal activities.” The Content Guidelines explicitly prohibit anything “involving or promoting illegal activities,” which would seem to include the January 6 insurrection that resulted in numerous charges and jail time.

Similarly, the Community Rules advise players not to “participate in or encourage illegal or dangerous activities within the community.” There is no prohibition against content “that glorifies or incites violence,” rather, that is from the Community Rules, which is only meant to regulate player action rather than the creation of content. Any player breaking these rules during a game can be reported through Epic’s player reporting system; however this particular rule is not said to be enforced against the creators of content inciting violence. It’s also not made clear whether players would be punished for playing a map like “Storm the Capitol,” as participating in a virtual violent insurrection, at the very least, is an action that glorifies the violence that actually took place. Similarly, Fortnite’s decision to platform islands consisting of world leaders killing each other exists within the area of glorifying violence, especially political violence, which is never discussed in any rules or policies by Epic. 

Since Fortnite’s islands operate similar to Roblox’s “experiences,” perhaps Roblox’s prohibition of political content could serve as a useful guide. Roblox prohibits content including: “current candidates running for public office, including their slogans, campaign material, rallies, or events,” “specific races for elected office,” “sitting real-world elected officials,” “Individuals who have previously run for political office in their capacity as candidate,” “Desecration of political entity symbols, including flag burning,” and “Inflammatory content related to real world border, territorial, or jurisdictional relationships.” The presence of these rules makes it easier to moderate spaces filled with hate speech and especially violent political content, such as Roblox’s Election Simulator experience, which GPAHE flagged and got deplatformed due to the worrying presence of Nazis, fascists, insurrection glorification and incitement, racism, homophobia, and transphobic hate speech and calls-to-violence. However, as demonstrated by Robloxs platforming of Election Simulator for over four years, policy only matters when it’s also being enforced.

Developers must fill out an International Age Rating Coalition (IARC) questionnaire, a change announced by Epic in October 2023, prior to submitting their island for Epic’s approval. The IARC questionnaire provides “a single set of questions that cover an island’s content and interactive elements,” such as whether it consists of violence, sexual content, and inappropriate language, before assigning the island with an age rating and content descriptors, with a maximum rating of “Teen” allowed on Fortnite in the United States. Based on region, the IARC has separate, but similar, age ratings used to judge the appropriateness of the game for certain ages, typically ranging from “Everyone” to “Mature” (over 18). Developers must re-do the questionnaire if they make any changes to their island. The IARC created their questionnaire in collaboration with worldwide rating authorities, game makers, and digital storefronts. The IARC only appears concerned with the type of gameplay (i.e., violence, sex) in a game, and how users interact with each other, rather than its narrative. Storm the Capitol, for example, was given a rating of Teen, for its inclusion of violence and blood.

On the back end, and reflecting a wider issue with Epic’s content policies, the End User License Agreement (EULA) for the Unreal Engine, including policy regarding Epic’s Content, found on the Epic Content License Agreement, outline the use of the Unreal Engine for the purposes of game development. There are general restrictions prohibiting the user from certain activities, such as “violat[ing] any applicable law or regulation,” but it seems to be mostly for the  protection of Epic’s products (i.e., renting or leasing the licensed technology). The Epic Content License Agreement allows players to modify licensed content as they see fit, barring making changes to “any proprietary notice or label included” in said content. This means that all content created with Unreal Engine (also outside of Fortnite) is not held to any standard regarding the creation of content, unlike others such as Opera’s, a company involved with gaming, E-Commerce, and web browsing, Gamemaker, which has banned developers from their platform for hatred and bigotry. Opera specifically mentions sharing hateful content as violative in their Terms of Service

With the U.S. Presidential election right around the corner, and several more around the world in the coming year, video game companies like Epic must be more aware of the harmful political content spreading on their platforms and update their content policies to reflect both the state of content policy in the gaming world, and an urgent need to mitigate chances of political violence potentially incited through their platforms.

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